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Germany can do more

Dagmar Engel / dbJune 13, 2014

Germany has already accepted 40,000 Syrian refugees, and now Berlin plans to welcome another 10,000. That's certainly a large number, but it's still not enough, says DW's Dagmar Engel.

Dagmar Engel
Image: DW/S. Eichberg

No other country outside the crisis region has taken in more refugees from Syria than Germany. Germany flies twice as many Syrians to safety than all other Western nations combined. Most refugees, however, arrive in Germany not via orderly admission procedures, but on their own and floating across the Mediterranean in barely seaworthy boats.

Those who have survived the war and the crossing, and have made their way into the very heart of Europe are usually allowed to stay. Relatively speaking, Germany is at the top of the list of countries that admit refugees.

Lebanon's burden

But in absolute figures, a comparably tiny country is at the top: more than one million Syrians fled to Lebanon, and 1,000 newcomers are still registered every single day. No other country in the world has taken in more Syrians. Three years ago, Lebanon had a population of 4 million inhabitants. Today, the small country is reaching the point where one out of four inhabitants is a refugee.

If all the country's refugee children went to school - and very few do so - Lebanese children would be a minority.

This week, Germany's state interior ministers again emphasized that providing active support to people in the region reaches significantly more people than admitting refugees to Germany. But even generous aid that amounts to hundreds of millions of euros doesn't alleviate the pressure on the social structure in the countries affected: the local, not very prosperous, population has begun to complain that the refugees receive preferential treatment.

Nations decide on their own

The German government has been trying for a year to initiate common EU admission procedures. While continuing to pursue that goal is a good thing, it clearly takes too long and its success is not a given.

But the German federal and state governments can take immediate action. Drawing the line at an extra 10,000 refugees is arbitrary. Germany took in 300,000 people during the Balkan wars.

How will Germany measure its contribution? By other Western nations that don't do enough, or states in the region that are inundated by huge numbers of refugees? Or will it be by human suffering? Or opinion polls and German voters' alleged preference?

In truth, the criteria are quite simple: We must do everything we can in the face of such a major refugee disaster on Europe's doorstep. And we can certainly do more.